Slovakia: The Escape from Invisibility

Slovakia: The Escape from Invisibility

Slovakia: The Escape from Invisibility

Slovakia: The Escape from Invisibility

Synopsis

Since Slovakia achieved independent statehood at the end of 1992 it has become one of the most prosperous post-communist states. This book provides a unique and thorough introduction to Slovakia and will enable the reader to understand its multi-faceted nature. The book includes chapters on Twentieth Century History, Politics, Economy and International Relations.

Excerpt

This book was written by accident. In 1987 I applied to the British Council to spend an academic year in Prague, and the Czechoslovak Ministry of Education sent me to Slovakia instead. Bratislava in the late communist period was known to be a far more relaxed place than Prague, so I assumed that the Slovaks had been kind enough to accept me while the Czechs had vetoed me for political reasons. The truth was probably more banal. Slovakia was in those days an invisible country, and foreign scholars rarely asked to go there. Since Czechoslovakia was supposed to be a federation of two equal republics, this was a bit embarrassing, and I was despatched to Bratislava for the sake of federal fair shares.

This arbitrariness of communist bureaucrats in 1987 had two results. The first was that I had to sit down and actively learn Slovak, since my modest Czech was clearly not going to get any better sitting in Bratislava listening to Slovak. The second was that when I was finally transferred to Prague for the second semester of my year in Czechoslovakia, I obtained an unexpected insight into Czech-Slovak relations. My Czech by now had such a heavy Slovak accent that most people assumed that was what I was speaking. This was such a curiosity in a foreigner that Slovakia inevitably became the first topic of conversation with most of the Czechs I met. To my surprise, I detected a Czech unease about Slovakia whose counterpart I had never encountered in Bratislava. While in Slovakia everything Czech appeared to be accepted as a matter of course, Slovak otherness somehow seemed to worry people in Prague. Many Czechs thought that the Slovaks didn’t like them. I had seen no evidence of this: Czech hang-ups about the Slovaks (and, alas, Slovak prejudices about Hungarians and Roma) were far more striking.

Consequently, when Czechs and Slovaks began to squabble about how their federation was organised after communism fell in 1989, my experiences in the late 1980s inclined me to suspect that the problem lay at least as heavily on the Czech side as on the Slovak side. The fact that the federation’s capital was located in the largest Czech city of Prague was bad news to start with, since this did not look like a design that would assure equal access to power from both parts of the federation.

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